Back to school stress is no joke. Why does my 2-year-old daughter have a school supplies list for daycare!? I, of course, waited until the week school starts to buy said school supplies, and now Target’s notebook and marker offerings are depleted. Except for the Cra-Z-Art brand, and Julia’s list specifically says “2 boxes of 24 count washable Crayola crayons.” Hmm…Will her teachers care if I get a different brand? Will other kids care? Why am I worried about this? When did back-to-school time become so frantic and pressure-filled?
And…exhale. Between the “right” school supplies (read: unicorn trapper keeper from 1984, forever), fretting about your kid’s new teacher, hoping they make friends (or don’t lose any), and managing your 87,000 daily responsibilities, it’s no wonder why the back-to-school season has been officially named the most stressful time of year for parents. And cherry on top: you might have children who attend different schools now, thereby creating multiple drop-offs and pickups, multiple curriculum nights, multiple everything. It’s seriously crazy!
The pressure of the back-to-school season affects us as moms in all of our various roles, how can we harness that and pivot to what’s next? We are proud of our babies and happy that they are advancing to the next stage, but all milestones are bittersweet.
Like many of you, I take pictures of my seven-year-old son, Sebastian, on the first day of school every year. We will do the same when he starts second grade next week. When I look at that first-day picture, though, I can’t help but be sentimental. I notice the goofy gaps in his teeth (I’m pretty sure braces are on the horizon) and how is hair swoops to the right. I remember his gummy smile as a baby and how my husband and I were concerned that he would be the only kid in school with a receding hairline (until his hair started growing in properly, whew). I remember the first time I felt him kick in my belly while watching Larry Crown in bed. And I remember his first pair of little-boy sandals with green dinosaurs on the side.
Today he easily reads chapter books to his sister, strikes blows in Tae Kwon Do, and runs for enjoyment (suffice it so say, he doesn’t get that from me). I’m sharing all this to let you know I feel your happiness and pride, but I also feel your pain. Whether your baby is starting pre-K or college, the saying “they will always be our babies,” is true. The best feeling in the world is holding your child against your chest, and the act of letting go requires a Herculean effort sometimes.
Maybe I should have started this article with “You might wanna grab some Kleenex.”
Okay, friends, let’s take a deep breath, feel all the feels, and talk about what comes next, shall we? Please understand that though I have subgrouped us, we are all mommies, and many of the concepts overlap and affect us all.
Back to School Anxiety for Stay-at-Home Moms
Whether all of your children are now attending a full day of school, one of them is attending pre-K or half-day kindergarten, or you still have a baby at home, your days are now changing. Routines are shifting, and you’ll spend a good portion of time wondering and worrying about things suddenly beyond your control. Anxious much?
Yeah. So what can you do about it? It’s time to look ahead. We can love our babies and hope that the school year is the best for them, but the best medicine in this case is distraction. What is this school year going to look like for you? There is a line of thinking that moms should only be focused on their children, and while we can agree that our babies need to be a huge focus, they can’t be the only focus. We can love our babies and pursue something that interests us at the same time.
When was the last time you were excited? Pause. When was the last time you were excited about something that had nothing to do with your children or partner? That’s a different story, right? Being happy about something unrelated to your children doesn’t make you a bad mama; it makes you a fulfilled one. So, what’s your school year gonna look like? What are your interests? What can you pursue for you while your children are at school or while Baby takes a nap?
Sometimes we spend so long thinking about others and convincing ourselves that we are “too busy” that we forget about what we were interested in in the first place. If this resonates with you and you are unsure about what to do, then you will need to try new things. Even though it sounds obvious that we should know what we enjoy, some of us don’t, and that’s ok. The thing is, though, that we can’t wait for it to occur to us. Ideas of what we like surface as we try new endeavors. Can you join a mommy group? Start an Etsy shop? Take a class while the kids are at school? Begin an exercise program or train for a 5k? Follow your spark – listen to your voice of excitement and trust it. Your interests will unveil themselves along the way as you try new adventures.
What will your school year look like?
Back to School Pressure for Moms Who Work Outside the Home
If you are a mommy who works outside of the home, you are likely stressed during this season because you are fitting in the litany of errands during off hours, of which there are never enough. Back to school means that your nighttime routine will become super crunched. It is for all moms, of course, but this routine is affected by when you are off work and when you get home with the children. The pressure to get things done gets real intense, real fast.
I am a high school counselor and leave work around 4:00pm. After a 45-minute commute, picking up the kids, and picking up any last-minute groceries (read: pizza for dinner if I’m exhausted) it’s often 5:45pm when we get home. Add in homework, bath time, reading time, and tucking them into bed, plus laundry, dishes, my own dinner, and my own shower and…yeah.
What’s relaxation time? No really. School is back in session! The reality is, though, that the kids being back in school will force you to be more strategic to fit in any “me time.” I’m not referring to spa days; I’m talking about daily, essential time for you to mentally prepare for the day, recharge, and take care of your overall wellness.
I encourage you to hold onto your sanity (whatever is left of it) by creating a morning routine, before the kids wake up, during which you can exercise, make your breakfast, pray/meditate/write in a journal, whatever works for you. This might literally be the only time of the day you get for yourself, and you must make it happen. As much as our loved ones, well, love us, they will never turn to us and ask, “Hey, Melissa, did you get enough me time today? Are you fulfilled?’ Not gonna happen. That’s on us, friends. Your sanity is your responsibility.
What will your school year look like?
Back to School Changes for Moms Who Work in Education
Whether you are a teacher, school psychologist, school counselor, or play another role, if you work in an educational setting your whole life is changing right now. Not only are your kids going back to school, but so are you. And that’s a huge adjustment.
You must gear up for returning to work, and even if you didn’t “sleep in” that late during summer, the school year demands a completely different morning routine for you and your kids. What will this year hold for you? Some of us truly love our jobs but I’m not going to pretend that working in a school is all rainbows and butterflies. I know each employee endures changes and new stressors every year, however you are still responsible for keeping your job interesting and exciting for yourself.
Professional development can help. If you are in a rut, pick a topic that’s important to you and attend a conference or workshop. If your school doesn’t allow for those, listen to education-related podcasts or read teacher blogs. It’s easy to get sucked into the negativity in many staff lunchrooms, but this is your life. Take control, and as cliché as it sounds make this the best academic year yet. Your students won’t be interested in growth if you aren’t.
In any field there will always be employees going through the motions. If you relate to this and you work in a school, then the beginning of the school year might be especially tough. If you are mentally checked out, again, the responsibility is on you to pursue an interest. First, you still must perform at the best of your ability at your day job; the kids deserve that. Second, though, go after what your heart desires! Get up early and start writing that book, exercise on your lunch break if you can, listen to motivational podcasts, whatever will help you through the day and take a step further to pursuing something you enjoy.
Friend, get your head in the game! This is your life! We all need something that interests us that has nothing to do with anyone else. GO FOR IT! What will your school year look like?
Back to School for Moms Who Have Clients or Customers Who are Moms
This might sound like an odd category to include but it’s worth mentioning: if you have clients or customers who are moms of kids returning to school, use that to bond with them. You know what the highs and lows feel like during this season. When the kids aren’t in the house as much you might miss their companionship, but at the same time be glad they aren’t eating everything in the refrigerator. You might miss the daily noise but simultaneously appreciate the silence. This internal conflict can cause a whole new type of stress.
Bond with your customers or clients over this commonality. This is a win-win. If you show people you understand or “get them,” they are likely to return to your business. Additionally, women like being relational. We mutually benefit from this kind of chitchat. If you ask a customer about her son’s second grade-teacher it might brighten her day, but you know what? It’s gonna brighten yours, too.
Back to School: The Bottom Line
Moms, back-to-school time is a rough and glorious time of year. Stress and joy and schedules all in upheaval. But you will get through it. As your family settles into the new routine, start to pivot to what comes next for you. Don’t wait until the new year to make resolutions. Dive in now! 2019 still has four months left! Use back-to-school season as inspiration to finish this year even better than the first half. Find that silver lining and make use of it.
What will your school year look like?